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fordfixer
09-10-2008, 01:11 AM
AFC North: Steelers Continue Opening Dominance

By Tony Moss, NFL Editor
http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnf ... id=4178720 (http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=nfl/news/newstest.aspx?id=4178720)

(Sports Network) - Lest you had forgotten, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not a finesse team.

The Black and Gold long ago forged a reputation as a group that left the opposition black and blue, and that approach has served Pittsburgh extremely well in Week 1 games during the current decade.

The Steelers' 38-17 win over the shell-shocked Houston Texans on Sunday made the team 6-0 in openers since 2003, and only one of those games was played within single digits. Pittsburgh's margin of victory in its last six Week 1 outings is 18 points.

The theory here is that while the Steelers are generally a strong team to begin with, their style is particularly difficult to deal with in early September.

Teams take great lengths to keep their top players healthy throughout August. They limit their work in the preseason, not even playing many in the final warm-up game, and minimize their chances of injury in summer practice sessions. Then, as in the case of the Texans on Sunday, they suddenly ask them to stand toe-to-toe with one of the most physical teams in the NFL.

It's the equivalent of throwing raw meat to a bear.

The Steelers made the Texans pay for their soft, cerebral approach in Week 1, dominating both lines of scrimmage and building a 35-3 lead after three quarters before putting on the brakes.

Running back Willie Parker erased all concerns about his injured leg by rushing for 138 yards on 25 carries, also scoring three touchdowns after managing just two all of last season.

Ben Roethlisberger was just about perfect, completing 13-of-14 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns to Hines Ward before giving way to Byron Leftwich.

But it was the defense that was vintage Pittsburgh from start to finish, sacking Matt Schaub five times, forcing him into three turnovers, and never allowing running backs Steve Slaton (13 carries, 43 yards) or Steve Slaton (5 carries, 28 yards) to do much damage.

Those predicting a drop-off for the Steelers had better wait a bit on those bold proclamations of the team's demise.

"I think that we played a good game in virtually all three phases," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "It was not perfect but I liked the energy and enthusiasm from the people who went out and made plays for this football team. That is what it is about."

Again, it looks like the Steelers will be the hunted in the AFC North. The Browns (0-1) didn't look ready for primetime in a loss to Dallas on Sunday, and the Ravens (1-0) and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco didn't win as much a seemingly disinterested Bengals (0-1) team handed them the game.

With a win this Sunday in Cleveland, where the Steelers haven't lost since 2000, the defending division champs will open up a two-game lead on a team that is perceived as its closest competitor in the North.

If the Browns want to halt that storyline, they'd better be ready to do some hitting against a team that is, as ever, using physical play as its calling card.

RAVENS: Flacco's regular season debut as an NFL quarterback drew enthusiastic reviews, with the Delaware product's slow-burn 38-yard touchdown run in the third quarter likely to be remembered as the highlight of the 17-10 win.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Flacco was not selected 18th in the 2008 Draft due to his scrambling abilities, but his longest run since high school will undoubtedly be persuasive enough to make future opponents pay close attention to his exits from the pocket.

Said Flacco of the play, which came off a perfectly-executed bootleg, "I started running and I was thinking 'first down, first down, first down,' and I got to the first down point and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I don't think there's anybody here.' I just started going upfield, and I just thought, 'I'm going to get in the end zone here.'"

As for his passing, Flacco was an efficient 15-of-29 for 129 yards without a touchdown or turnover, and got tons of help from a dominant running game and strong defense.

"It was a lot of fun...I had a lot of help," said Flacco. "The offensive linemen, the running backs, they all did a hell of a job. And then you have the defense, that was ridiculous. They didn't let up all day."

New head coach John Harbaugh did what predecessor Brian Billick did not, winning his opener on the Baltimore sideline.

"Give credit to our football team," said Harbaugh. "That was a team effort starting with our coordinators - Cam Cameron, Rex Ryan, Jerry Rosburg - just tremendous game plans. I think you saw the style of football they've been promoting throughout training camp and the offseason, and it was there today."

BENGALS: With the emergence of Chris Perry late in the preseason, the warming of relations between Chad Johnson and the team, and the state of injuries in Baltimore and Cleveland, the Cincinnati Bengals had developed into something of a sleeper pick as September began.

Maybe the word "asleep" is more apt.

The Bengals were outgained 358-154 by the Ravens on Sunday, with quarterback Carson Palmer (10-of-25 passing, 99 yards, 1 INT), wideout Chad Johnson (1 catch, 22 yards), and a particularly abysmal run defense (Baltimore had 229 yards on the ground) amongst the biggest villains in the team's first Week 1 loss since 2004.

With the setback, just the team's second defeat at the hands of the Ravens in eight games, Cincinnati allowed rookies Flacco, Harbaugh and running back Ray Rice (83 yards on 25 total touches) to arrive well ahead of schedule.

"We sucked basically," said wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who finished with three catches for 44 yards. "Everybody on offense who got a chance to play...what was there, maybe 13 or 14 of us? We just suck on offense right now. That's terrible, we can't move the ball, we can't get a first down. We can't run, we can't throw. We just didn't play good on offense, bottom line."

BROWNS: Rounding out the Ohio-based disappointment was the day that the Browns had in a 28-10 home loss to the Cowboys.

After a winless preseason characterized by a number of injuries, Cleveland looked largely flat, with quarterback Derek Anderson (11-of-24, 114 yards, 1 TD), running back Jamal Lewis (13 carries, 62 yards), and wide receiver Braylon Edwards (2 receptions, 14 yards) all showing some rust after missing extended time in August.

Perhaps more discouraging for the Browns was the work of its new-look defense, which gave up a whopping 487 yards, including a combined 168 for running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice.

Tackles Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, who were supposed to prevent such ground weakness, combined for six tackles but didn't make a profound impact.

"Dallas has a good football team and they deserve a lot of credit for coming in here and doing what they did," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "But we could have done better than we did. We dropped some balls, dropped an interception, and let them throw one over our head.

"In the second half, as we started to wear down a bit, we let them run the ball more. A lot of things went wrong."

09/09 14:39:09 ET

RuthlessBurgher
09-10-2008, 01:42 AM
But it was the defense that was vintage Pittsburgh from start to finish, sacking Matt Schaub five times, forcing him into three turnovers, and never allowing running backs Steve Slaton (13 carries, 43 yards) or Steve Slaton (5 carries, 28 yards) to do much damage.

But if you add up those totals, it would appear that the two Steve Slatons had a combined 18 carries for 71 yards between them. Two Steve Slatons must be better than one. :lol:

fordfixer
09-10-2008, 01:49 AM
But it was the defense that was vintage Pittsburgh from start to finish, sacking Matt Schaub five times, forcing him into three turnovers, and never allowing running backs Steve Slaton (13 carries, 43 yards) or Steve Slaton (5 carries, 28 yards) to do much damage.

But if you add up those totals, it would appear that the two Steve Slatons had a combined 18 carries for 71 yards between them. Two Steve Slatons must be better than one. :lol:

Hi I'm Larry this is my brother Steve and my other brother Steve. :D